New York COVID-19 vaccine mandates for government workers facing growing union backlash
One New York union says it is considering its legal options to fight the state's decision
Public employee unions in New York are pushing back against newly-announced dictates requiring workers to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to regular testing for the virus.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, announced Monday that public employees of The Big Apple need to be fully vaccinated by mid-September are they would be required to get tested for the coronavirus on a weekly basis. Officials note that it is not a mandate because employees have a choice, but some employees and unions say the measure goes too far and stamps on workers' rights.
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FDNY EMS Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay blasted the mayor's decision following the news, saying his union – which represents the city's 4,300 EMS workers – took them by surprise with the move. "The city and the mayor cannot simply disregard the civil liberties of the workforce," he told The Associated Press.
"The unions are really, really aggravated that the mayor sprung this on everybody," sanitation workers' union President Harry Nespoli told The New York Times.
On Wednesday, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced there would be a requirement for vaccination or testing for public employees at the state level, too.
"It's smart. It's fair, and it's in everyone's interests," he argued in pushing the plan.
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But some unions representing state workers didn't appreciate the governor's roll-out of the measure, either.
While Cuomo said during his announcement that his administration was currently negotiating with unions about the vaccine and testing requirements for workers, Thomas Mungeer, the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association president, told FOX Business that the governor's announcement was the first he had heard of the plan – and that his union is considering taking action against it.
"The NYSTPBA was caught off guard by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s abrupt announcement regarding mandatory vaccinations or weekly COVID tests for state employees," Mungeer said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. "While we await contact from the governor’s office with more information, we are reviewing our legal options since we believe this is a change in the terms and conditions of our employment."
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However, some unions praised the new requirements on their members.
"Vaccination and testing have helped keep schools among the safest places in the city," the United Federation of Teachers said in a statement following de Blasio's announcement. "This approach puts the emphasis on vaccination but still allows for personal choice and provides additional safeguards through regular testing."